Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On the Downfall of Creativity in Hollywood and the PC Game Industry

I'm starting to get really frustrated with the apparent lack of ability for anybody to come up with new ideas in the Movie and PC Game industries. There seem to be three or four main diseases that strike down creativity in these two industries.

1) Sequelitis: You can't just release a good movie any more. You have to have part 2, and 3, and 4, and 5, and so on, for ever and ever until people refuse to keep watching them. What's worse, by about 3 or 4, the director and some of the actors call it quits and the quality plummets. Actually, sometimes things go south far before then.

2) Genreitis: For every original, well produced hit, be prepared for scores of cheap knock-offs over the next several years. In the PC industry they're called 'killers' (ie Sacred is a Diablo Killer or Call to Power is a Civ2 Killer). In Hollywood they're called, ... well... I'm not sure what they're called, but they're crap. Remember when Lord of the Rings came out? Remember all of the really bad fantasy movies that immediately followed it? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but flattery has nothing to do with it, I assure you.

3) Similarititis: Movies come out in twos and threes now. For every Deep Impact, there is an Armageddon. What are the odds on that one? Two movies come out in the same year and they're both about large asteroids heading towards earth and threatening to wipe out all life on the planet. It's not a coincidence. This is kind of like an advanced stage of Genreitis where they actually start stealing each other's ideas, rather than simply copy their success.

4) Remakeitis: This one only really happens in the movie industry. About 90% of the time when I watch a movie and think to myself "Wow, that was a really well done and original movie", it's because it is a remake of some movie that came out in the 50's. Oceans 11, and Fun with Dick and Jane are good examples of this.

I don't think it's as easy as chalking it up to greed or cowardice. It's just a sad phenomenon, I guess. Back in the day, one dude working out of his mom's basement could hammer out a hit PC game in a year. Now it takes a team of 27 developers 2 years to come up with something that's competitive. The same goes in Hollywood. I'm not talking about the movies that cost 10 mil. and wrap in 6 months. There are still plenty of those. I'm talking about the blockbusters. You simply can't do one for less than 150-250 million now. I can't blame them for not wanting to risk 250 million on a movie that may only gross 50-100 million at the box office. In both cases it comes down to the cost of making it look good. Special effects, and for PC games, graphics, are required to be top notch, but are still fairly expensive to do.

I have limited experience in computer graphics and have read up on the film industry somewhat and I don't see an end to this issue any time soon. Somebody's going to have to find a way to make it more affordable for this copy-cat situation to go away. In the mean time, here's rooting for the little guys that somehow manage to cobble together something out of nothing because nobody is willing to back their risky new idea for a game or movie.

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